For most people, finding a mouth-watering snack or simply ingredients for a healthy meal is as easy as walking into any neighborhood supermarket. But for others, who have allergies, special diets, or are trying to lose weight, dining out and food shopping can be a constant challenge as they are always on the watch for ingredients that may make them sick, trigger a reaction, put on weight, or bring on an allergic response. For these people a trip to the supermarket or a restaurant is more likely to inspire dread.
Items on their shopping list might be bread without gluten for a child with celiac disease, a low-calorie candy bar, or a two-point Weight Watchers entree for a spouse who’s trying to keep to his New Year’s resolution, or diabetes-friendly foods for adults with a sweet tooth who can’t have the cookies, cakes, and candies they love.
DeLiteful Foods and its sister cafe in Glendale Plaza in Lawrenceville offer a culinary answer to these predicaments. The store and cafe are managed with the expert guidance of Ronnie Staffenberg, a retired special education teacher, who owns the store with her husband, Drew.
On a recent visit I was back on a pseudo-Weight Watchers diet, using an old booklet inherited from my sister — because my doctor had just told me to lose five or 10 pounds in an effort to avoid blood pressure medication. I was already starting to experience the feeling of constant starvation that inevitably accompanies diets after age 50, and my mother, who struggles with Type 2 diabetes, was with me.
A couple of weeks prior to visiting DeLiteful Foods, I had taken the leap into diet mode — cutting out sweets and subtracting out as much other starch as I could. I had even made a double-recipe of a Weight Watchers cabbage tomato soup from an Internet recipe — it was tasty enough (as tasty as you might expect for a zero points dish) but it took real work to make (especially if you include buying the ingredients). At the DeLiteful Cafe, I found a similar soup ($3.25 a cup, $4.25 a bowl) — and someone else had done the work — and I also tasted a delicious, creamy broccoli-cheddar cheese soup (one point for 1 1/4 cup, same price).
At the cafe I also sampled the vegetarian chili (2 points a cup, same price as soup) and the creamy Waldorf pasta salad (3 points for a 3/4 cup, $5.95), both well prepared. The cafe has a homelike feel, with wrought iron round tables and grillwork chairs with rattan seats. A cheery pink-striped apron hangs on the wall, along with a framed saying, “Laughter Is the Music of the Heart.”
Breakfast features both standard bagels and specialty ones with about half the calories and few carbs — either alone or as part of a sandwich with eggs and choice of cheeses and meats. And for customers who can’t face the morning without a sweet nosh, the choice is one- or two-point fruit crepes for $4; high-fiber, two-point muffins in 10 flavors for $1.50; or a three-point low-fat Danish for $1.50.
In addition to soups, the lunch menu offers a range of salads — including both curried and standard chicken, a Greek side, and others — as well as the usual range of sandwiches and wraps, veggie burgers, and hot dogs. Breads come in regular, lite, and gluten-free varieties, and stars on the menu indicate dishes that are entirely gluten free.
Desserts looked mouth-watering: fruit pies, cheesecake, chocolate mousse, and brownies came in at two points, with key lime pie topping out at three. The winner in the low-calorie category is a cafe favorite — a vanilla/ chocolate twist frozen yogurt dessert with only eight calories an ounce, which means you can consume up to 12 ounces and use up only a single Weight Watchers point.
To look for a snack for myself, I stepped into the store. I tend toward more natural foods but couldn’t help noticing the two-point chocolate chip mint and pumpkin spice cookies. I successfully passed those over, however, and swooped down on Figamajigs, which were sweet but could satisfy my chocolate addiction as well. This ingenious fig bar with chocolate coating (only 130 calories), did the trick: the fig functioned like a recondite chocolate, creating the illusion that the entire bar was actually chocolate.
The store’s 1,400 products can feel a little overwhelming, but similar items are grouped together, and Staffenberg is there to guide customers to what they want. My mother, who was about to drive down to Washington to visit health-compromised friends and wanted to bring along a gift, found a decorative bag of goodies that included La Nouba Chocolate Hazelnut Spread ($5.79), made with premium Belgian chocolate, with sugar alcohols but no sugar and only 108 calories per tablespoon serving; La Nouba Belgian Coffee Waffles ($5.98) at 43 calories per cookie; gluten-free Mariposa Almond Biscotti ($9.79) at 110 calories each; and gluten free, soda style Glutano Crackers (four crackers are 125 calories).
As I wandered through the store, I saw products that would sooth the harried frenzy of shoppers concerned about their own health and that of their families. I envisioned a child with celiac disease happily snacking on gluten-free products like pizza-flavored breadsticks, Wizards cookies, and New Morning Cocoa Crispy Rice and EnviroKids Gorilla Munch breakfast cereals. Diabetics might satisfy their urges for sweetness with Walden Farms calorie-free jams at $4.49 a jar or jazz up their diets with low-carb products like a sugar-free pancake and waffle mix at $4.79; Carba-Nada noodles at $5.99, and the Extend bars designed for diabetics.
And for the tubbies among us, always on the lookout for that elusive food that is both satisfying and low calorie, there are frozen foods like the four-point eggplant rollatini at $6.49 and the six-point chicken cacciatore at $7.39; maybe that box of low-carb, high-fiber macaroni and cheese at $3.79; and the American Fries I found among the tasting treats on the flower cart in the middle of the store, which go for $1.69 a bag, cost two Weight Watchers points, and are indistinguishable from crispy “fries” with an authentically ketchupy taste.
Realizing that it can’t compete with grocery stores on price, Deliteful Foods carries among its 1,400 products mostly what is not available in area supermarkets, and Staffenberg mentions that Whole Foods sends over customers in search of gluten-free products.
Staffenberg got the idea for DeLiteful Foods one day when she stopped at a similar store in North Jersey — and decided she could do a much better job. She opened her store about two-and-a-half years ago and the cafe last summer.
DeLiteful Foods and Cafe, Glendale Plaza, 4040 Quakerbridge Road, Lawrenceville, 609-586-7122, info@DeLitefulFood.com, www.DeLitefulFood.com. Hours: Monday through Wednesday, and Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.